Dune is the latest science fiction epic from acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve. After starting his career making psychological dramas/thrillers such as Maelstrom, Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy, and Sicario it seems Villeneuve has fully embraced the science fiction genre with his latest films Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and now Dune. Dune is based on the legendary novel from Frank Herbert, of which there have been two attempts to translate the book to film. David Lynch tried and failed and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version sounded like it was much too ambitious for studio executives at the time, it ended up never being made. It has often been claimed that the book is simply unadaptable due to its extremely dense material. Still, in today’s world of franchise film domination its a tad surprising that there has only been a couple of attempts to translate this book to the screen giving its cult following.

Dune features a star studded cast including Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Issac, and Jason Mamoa. It also features the on screen reunion of Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin who both starred and played adversaries in the Coen Brothers No Country For Old Men. Villenauve even makes a playful gesture of this by adding some dialogue between the two to get a chuckle from the audience.

Dune takes place on the desert planet Arrakis where in the beginning the “outsiders” , the harkonnens control the planet as well as spice production. The fremen, who are native to the planet, are bitter adversaries with the harkonnens and are engaged in warfare constantly. Duke Leto of House Atreides who is the ruler of the ocean planet Caladan, is assigned by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV to replace House Harkonnen as fief rulers of Arrakis. Leto is intrigued to become ruler of Arrakis due to its overabundance of spice which is the most valuable resource in the universe. Little does he know Shaddam intends to have House Harkonnen stage a coup to retake the planet, eradicating House Atreides, whose influence threatens Shaddam’s control. In the heat of battle, Duke Leto’s son Paul Atreides must confront his personal doubts and prove to be the chosen one that he is claimed to be.

The obvious comparison to Dune would be Star Wars which both feature a messiah like figure whose job is to save the universe. In Star Wars we have Luke Skywalker, in Dune Paul Atreides. But what makes it so glaringly obvious is the location where both films are shot. The choice of filming this science fiction epic in the dessert may make Star Wars fans think Dune simply copied the original trilogy but remember Dune was written before George Lucas even made his first feature film. A interesting fact is when Villeneuve began scouting for locations for Dune he was hellbent on filming in Wadi Rum, Jordan which hilariously enough Star Wars: The Force Awakens was already filming in the same location. There are a couple of other similarities that I will touch on later but for now let’s just talk Dune.

Dune excels mostly in its set design with extremely elaborate sets that were so necessary to help with the worldbuilding that Villeneuve was going for and that the book demands. Production designer Patrice Vermette has been Villeneuve’s right hand man for much of his career, working with him on Enemy, Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival. Another strong suit of the film is its visual effects. Villeneuve like his colleague and fellow huge blockbuster spectacle driven director Christopher Nolan is known for using practical effects. In other words he uses visual effects only to enhance what is on the screen, there is no green screen and CGI is not used as a crutch. There are scenes in this film that make one wonder how it was possible to film them, taking into consideration that almost no green screen was used at all. A surprisingly quiet but solid performance is Hans Zimmer’s score which is way down the list in terms of his best work but at times amplifies scenes and never disrupts them with overbearing film music.

The performances from the cast are all mostly fine, with Rebecca Ferguson and Sharon Duncan Brewster being the stand outs. While watching the film I couldn’t decipher if Chalamet just gave a underwhelming performance or if Villeneuve’s Paul Atreides was intentionally stoic, monotone and lifeless. Regardless, Timothee Chalamet’s performance as Paul Atreides is almost as bad as Hayden Christenson’s Anakin Skywalker, or Keannu Reeves’s Neo. While I bring up Star Wars and the Matrix it is important to note those films accomplish much of the same as Dune. They are science fiction spectacles with great visual effects but children’s book story lines. The chosen one saving the universe is so overused and recycled its maddening. when do audiences just get sick of watching the same thing over and over again?